"I'm slowly becoming a convert to the principle that you can't motivate people to do things, you can only demotivate them. The primary job of the manager is not to empower but to remove obstacles."
— Scott Adams
The Mean Boss is related to the Pointy-Haired Boss
, possibly edging into Bad Boss
territory at times. He's certainly given the higher-ups every reason to have confidence in him. He's competent, knows what he's doing, and keeps his workers motivated. It's the way that he keeps them motivated that's the problem. He'll yell at you for being a minute late, give you mountains of work the night before it's due, have a heart attack any time you even suggest that you might deserve a raise for all your hard work, and nearly rip your head off at the drop of a hat. He may be a money-grubber, egocentric, or just plain ornery. Very often played for laughs. Dr. Jerk
is another trope with frequent crossover.
In Real Life
(for those tropers who haven't entered the work world yet), these are mercifully rare. Many bosses are simply rough and difficult because it's their job to ensure the work gets done so everyone gets paid and the customers are satisfied, but are not necessarily mean or cruel-intentioned. Management (the job a boss does) can be stressful and difficult - it's like herding cats.
Anime & Manga
- Tsunade from Naruto is very much this, especially in the fillers. As Hokage (the chief of the village), she is shown to have a very short temper and is strict about shinobi going on missions and reporting back to her immediately upon completion. When enraged, she would throw her chair and other furniture out the window, and have Izumo and Kotetsu retrieve them.
- Roy Mustang from Fullmetal Alchemist.
- Catbert, the Evil Human Resources Director of Dilbert lives up to that title. He even controls the trope-naming Pointy-Haired Boss to some extent to make everyone else's lives miserable.
- J.C. Dithers of Blondie is quite possibly the Ur-example. (Of course, despite the fact that he fires Dagwood on a regular basis, he always hires him back for some strange reason.)
- Mr. Pembrook of FoxTrot is
quite possibly definitely an egocentric type - he once fired a massive amount of workers and then gave himself a $300,000 raise, and in another strip he sent out a memo ordering the employees to make themselves look bad in the company photo so he'd look better by comparison. He also implies in the same strip that he didn't send Roger the memo and that he wants Roger at his side specifically because Roger already meets the required directions without knowing it. In another strip he had Roger work as a clown at his son's birthday party (that's in Roger's job description; he thought it was a joke when he was hired; a lot of what happened at the party is likely best left to the imagination, but Pembrook begged him not to sue.)
- Stuart in Retail is a combination of this and Pointy-Haired Boss. Takes pride in the fact that most employees hate him.
- The initial district manager, Jerry, really fit the part as the jerk boss, leading Marla to comment that he was a "mean spirited jerk" (which Jerry unfortunately overheard). In the blog of the strip's character Cooper (www.coopersretailblog.com), he described Jerry as a "douchebag." In Jerry's last appearance in the strip it was revealed that he misremembered Marla's name on purpose.
- Butterflies Flowers: Director Domoto. Not mean so much, but tyrannical, dictatorial, and demanding. Also way hot and the Love Interest.
- Extreme example: Darth Vader.
- Vader implies that Emperor Palpatine is a far worse boss than himself, and Palpatine pretty much confirms Vader's statements in the expanded universe.
- Need we mention the cube farm boss lady from Wanted?
- Bill Lumbergh from Office Space. He always makes people work on weekends and continuously orders Milton to move his desk to increasingly absurd locations (ending in the roach-infested basement). Plus he took Milton's favorite stapler...again (which is one of the reasons why he set the building on fire).
- Philbin in Phantom of the Paradise. The musicians that work for him are motivated through a combination of casual threats and Speed, and as far as Philbin's concerned, they're all more than replacable. Plus, he doesn't take rejection by his Ingenues well- hence his conversation with Swan, the real villain of the story.
- Marty Wolff of Big Fat Liar is a complete Jerkass to everyone around him, but he gets his just desserts.
- Les Grossman from Tropic Thunder is probably even worse than Marty Wolff.
- Tyrannical Channel 8 Owner & General Manager R. J. Fletcher of UHF.
- In Horrible Bosses the three titular bosses take meanness to a new level
- The Psycho boss denies Nick a promised promotion and tells everyone it is because Nick drinks at work. The only reason Nick had a drink is because the boss forced him to have one.
- The Maneater boss regularly sexually harasses Dale. When he rejects her advances, she drugs him and takes sexually explicit photos of him to blackmail him with.
- The Tool boss has Kurt fire all the overweight and unattractive people and then moves on to the handicapped.
- Shark Tale: Mr. Sykes.
- Igor: King Malbert.
- David Hasselhoff's character in Click. He's also a Stupid Boss.
- Harold Cornish in Identity Thief, a Smug Snake executive who treats all his underlings as replaceable cogs who should be happy they even have a job. He announces for the second year in a row that the company isn't doing well enough to justify bonuses for the employees. Meanwhile, he has Sandy cut checks for "special" bonuses for the partners with himself getting a million-dollar bonus. When Sandy expresses confusion, Cornish tells him that Sandy's job can be filled by Quicken (the software), meanwhile people like him (Cornish) are the ones who make all the money for the company and deserve the bonuses, referencing The Fountainhead as an explanation.
- Averted with Sandy's new boss, Daniel Casey, who recognizes Sandy's skills, makes him a VP and quintuples his salary. On the other hand, he's willing to fire Sandy over a case of identity theft.
- Julius Root of Artemis Fowl is this with a dash of sexism thrown in in the beginning. Justified for political reasons; Holly was the first female recon officer, so he needed her to be a good example.
- William Shortpaws of the Geronimo Stilton series, is definitely a mean boss. Geronimo's grandfather and owner/publisher of the newspaper where his maternal grandson works, he never misses an opportunity to remind Geronimo who's in charge, and is constantly yelling at him or threatening to fire him. He's also very cheap, and in fact is called "Cheapskate Willy" (behind his back). However, he does pay his grandson the odd backhanded compliment when he does something particularly heroic that will give the paper good publicity. He also seems to favor Thea, and will do anything she asks him to, and appreciates his cook Tiny Spicetail's cooking to the point that he actully gets her get away with her attitude.
- Edgar's boss in The Act is not above smacking him around if he doesn't think Edgar is doing his job.
- The announcer in Team Fortress 2.
- Mr. Krabs of SpongeBob SquarePants is either this or the Pointy-Haired Boss (He's certainly got the moneygrubbing down pat).
- Mr. Spacely, George Jetson's boss.
- Spacely's business rival, Mr. Cogswell is just as bad. The worst part is, George is often caught in the middle of Mr. Spacely's plots to one-up Cogswell.
- Possibly Mr. Slate from The Flintstones.
- In a few episodes, maybe, though most episodes seemed to portray him as reasonably amiable toward his workers (Wilma even invites him to Fred's birthday party in one episode), and only going into Mean Boss territory when Fred does something foolish/job-endangering. In one episode, he even convinced his new vice president to bend the rules a little when the new company policy required employees to have a high school diploma, letting Fred keep his job if he simply took a two week course to get one.
- Mr Herriman from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, though he heads into Pointy-Haired Boss territory for being incompetent at times.
- C. Montgomery Burns, Homer's maniacal boss from The Simpsons.
- Hopper from Disney & Pixar A Bug's Life
- Cheif and Lok from the Tak and the Power of Juju animated series.
- Rancid Rabbit from CatDog.
- Principal Pixiefrog from My Gym Partners A Monkey.
- Benson from Regular Show.
- To be fair, Benson just has to deal with slackers like Mordecai and Rigby (Muscle Man sometimes gets on his nerves as well). He's actually quite reasonable with Pops and Skips.
- But from the point of view of the actual protagonists, Benson is a prick who takes away anything that gives the two the slightest joy (in any given episode) and then threatens to fire them.
- Professor Pampelmoose from Sidekick.
- In Codename: Kids Next Door:
- Numbuh 86 is downright mean whenever she is in a position to lead a team (and seeing as she outranks most other operatives, she can do that rather often; not to mention that, seeing as she's Head of Decomissions, they're downright terrified of her). Fortunately, Numbuh 362, the Supreme Leader of the organization, is much nicer.
- Also, Mr. Boss is the Big Bad of the show (well one of them) but he's this towards his normal employees.
- Mr. Wilter from ChalkZone.
- Mr. Mufflin from Fanboy and Chum Chum.
- Nester from Scaredy Squirrel.
- Gart from Robot And Monster.
- Temple Fugate, before becoming the Clock King, in Batman: The Animated Series. Threatening to fire an employee for being five minutes late seems mean to a normal human being, but Fugate is a Schedule Fanatic who only cares for punctuality. If you’re a punctual employee, Fugate would be civil to you, but never appreciative.
- Chief Rojas was like this on The Batman, although in truth, Batman was the one he was angry at, and he was taking it out on his men.
- The King (obviously modeled on Charles Laughton) who Yosemite Sam works for in the Looney Tunes short Shishkabugs.